London: England closed in on a series-levelling victory in the fifth Test at the Oval on Sunday as Australia slipped to 68-3 at lunch on the fourth day.
Joe Root’s side set the tourists an unlikely 399 to win in London after adding just 16 runs to their overnight total.
Paceman Stuart Broad pounded in, roared on by a packed crowd, who raised the roof when he demolished Marcus Harris’s off-stump in the fifth over, removing the batsman for nine.
In his following over, Broad ended David Warner’s miserable series, with the opener edging him to Rory Burns in the slips and departing for 11.
Warner, who returned to international cricket in June after a 12-month ban for ball-tampering, had a good World Cup but has endured a torrid time in the Ashes.
The attacking batsman has scored just 95 runs in 10 innings and has been dismissed by Broad seven times.
Warner’s dismissal brought Steve Smith to the wicket and he opened his account with a sweet drive through the covers for four off Jofra Archer.
Smith and Marcus Labuschagne (14) took the score to 56 before off-spinner Jack Leach beat the outside edge of Labuschagne’s bat and Johnny Bairstow whipped off the bails to complete a sharp stumping.
Seamer Sam Curran and Leach continued to apply pressure on Smith and new man Matthew Wade but Australia reached the lunch break without losing a further wicket.
Smith was unbeaten on 18, with Wade 10 not out.
England, who became world champions in the one-day game for the first time in July, are desperate to end a long summer by levelling the five-match series at 2-2.
If they manage to win, it would be the first drawn Ashes series since 1972.
The tourists’ hopes rest almost entirely on the shoulders of Smith, who has dominated the series with his bat despite missing one-and-a-half Tests after being hit by an Archer bouncer.
His 769 runs so far put him fifth on the list of highest tallies in an Ashes series behind Don Bradman’s two entries, England’s Wally Hammond and former Australia skipper Mark Taylor. Australia are seeking their first Test series win in England since 2001 but only once before have they scored 399-plus runs in the fourth innings to win a Test match, against England at Headingley in 1948. Earlier, England took their second-innings total to 329, with Archer and Leach the last men out. — AFP